Tag Archives: German

SLAMDANCE 2024: ODDS & ENDS

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Bitcoin Car

Trygve Luktvasslimo has many things to say about the evils of global business, agricultural affairs, and especially bitcoin. As screeds go, Bitcoin Car is, at least, a largely whimsical one. The plot description (if you’ll pardon the long quotation)—“a musical adventure in which a young goat farmer on a small coastal village finds herself on collision course with the megalomaniac death wish of a young crypto investor. After her brother comes home for the summer, she has to explain that she’s partially responsible for the gold-plated bitcoin mining facility located on top of the cemetery where their parents are buried because she accepted a lot of money in order to pimp out — and gold plate — her old Toyota”—suggests a number of possibilities, and its oddness is what caught our eye.

However, Gloria’s campaign against Big Crypto is peppered with long remarks extolling the evils of This (I do feel that bitcoin mining is an appalling waste of resources), and the goodness of That (I do not feel that digging in a hole in the ground should be romanticized). Bitcoin Car is capably executed by all involved, and has a few fun musical interludes with singing angelic electrons (“My Electric Blues,” with accordion and holy chorus, is an unalloyed delight), but it is far more preachy than weird.

Darla in Space

Are you getting enough from your kombucha? Sure, it may revivify and refine your gut—but where are the mind-blowing orgasms? Susie Moon and Eric LaPlante feel you deserve more. It’s nothing tawdry (despite the motel backdrop), it’s therapeutic, a “menage.” And unless your scoby is getting your rocks off, are you really having a refreshing quaff of kombucha?

Darla in Space is a fairly compact experience in cuteness, supported by solid performances and a charismatically deadpan scoby around the size of a kiddie pool. Darla is in horrible debt to the IRS (courtesy of her insensitive mother), and a chance discovery of a sensitive, sentient scoby (referred to as… “Mother”) puts her on the path to paying off her massive tax burden through its power of delivering mind-blowing orgasms.

Characters are established (Darla is quirky, as we know from the start with her advertisement for “Kitty Kaskets”), plot points are ticked, montages montage, and complications in the film, as in life, get complicated. But, this being a movie, we know all loose ends will be tied. Alex E. Harris keeps the hipster-awkward Darla just this side of believable, and J.S. Oliver provides a cuddlier take on the HAL phenomenon. Perhaps worth another look by our crack squad here at 366, but at least all the synopses, trailers, and press releases are up-front about the hyper-quirk. You have been warned. (Or, just as reasonably, you have been intrigued.)

The Washer

Major points awarded to writer/director/&c. Nils A Witt for this science-fiction oddity. His protagonist’s assuredness and mechanical aptitude renders The Washer a combination of Primer and Pi,  as our hero (of sorts) falls deeper and deeper into developing his time-bending invention comprised of an ever-growing array of synchronized washing machines. There is never any point in this tech-thriller where the premise is explained, even with the clever inclusion of various academic-looking types explaining this, that, and the other about the physics of time, space, light, and causality.

Jan is at the start of his career with what appears to be a small but respectable law firm, but his growing fascination with the spinning, watery-eye of his washing machine’s view port shunts him down a rabbit hole of strange science and personal alienation. As his research deepens, a mysterious woman stalks the periphery, and his failure to pay his bills—alongside the tremendous increase in water and electricity use noticed by the municipality—grind him down, leaving him covered in grease, clothed in ragged garments, and limping by the time he has fully assembled his rig. While Witt’s directorial debut makes the human toll all too clear, the science is left both mysterious and mundane. The Washer is a nice, quiet little speculative noodle-scratcher, and I look forward to another Witt work, whether I’ll understand it or not.

CAPSULE: PIAFFE (2022)

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Piaffe can be rented or purchased on-demand.

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Simone Bucio, Sebastian Rudolph, Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau

PLOT: A woman grows a horse tail when she accepts a job creating equine foley effects for an antidepressant commercial.

Still from Piaffe (2022)

COMMENTS: Rather than hiding the horse tail growing out of her backside, as one would expect, Eva cuts a hole in the rear of her pants so it can stick out. (This is likely a fetish for a very particular audience.) She’s grown the unnatural appendage during her obsessive observation of horse behavior, after being advised to “go out and look at some animals” so that she can imitate equine noises for an antidepressant commercial. The tail looks completely ridiculous: at least, until the film’s final twitching image.

But even aside from that  mutation, the world of Piaffe is strange. It’s not quite full-fledged surrealist piece, but it transgresses the boundaries of simple magical realism. Eva shares some sort of undefined workspace with a botanist who uses an antique rotating platform of dubious scientific value to study unfurling ferns. The company commissioning her foley work is helmed by an aggressively blond man with the worst bowl haircut seen onscreen in some time; his assistants are equally blond and sport equally bad haircuts, as if they’re all members of some weird horse-sound commissioning cult. The nurse at the mental hospital where her non-binary sibling Zara is checked in goes beyond Nurse Ratchet rude, into the realm of the aspiring dominatrix. The entire world seems set up to frustrate the shy girl, who is terrified of others. She might, it seems, benefit from a dose of Equili, the antidepressant whose advertisement she’s been scoring.

Eva finds the strength to emerge from her shell by carefully observing a horse, and even more so by finding the courage to approach the botanist. He opens her up with some b&d rose play—an erotic image with a unique sense of danger. Repeated, if less memorable, bondage sequences follow, before Eva rejects him mid-seduction, without expressing a reason. Perhaps the return of Zara from the hospital has something to do with it…

Piaffe describes a woman’s growing confidence, as she becomes a competent foley artist and a sexually mature being. This trans-adjacent film traffics in an uncomfortable blurring of sexual boundaries: between male and female, consensual and non-consensual, human and animal. There are meaningful connections and memorable scenes, and yet it often feels like an overstretched premise rather than a story. That may be due to the fact that it began its life as a 13-minute short called “Passage,” which starred the androgynous Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau as the foley artist. Pateau plays Zara in Piaffe, with a long horse-like mane but no visible tail. In Piaffe‘s liminal context, it seems only appropriate that they would shift from one character to another.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…ideologically abstract and beguilingly weird.”–Jeanette Catsoulis, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: KILLER CONDOM (1996)

Kondom des Grauens

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Martin Walz 

FEATURING: Udo Samel, Peter Lohmeyer, Marc Richter, Leonard Lansink, Iris Berben

PLOT: Hard-boiled detective Luigi Mackeroni sets out to stop a  malevolent predator resembling a prophylactic that uses its razor-sharp teeth to perform impromptu penectomies on the patrons of sex workers at a grungy New York flophouse.

Still from Killer Condom (1996)

COMMENTS: Does anyone go into a movie titled Killer Condom with high expectations? Before you’ve seen a frame, you’re already primed for an experience that will be trashy fun at best, exploitative and gross at worst. And your reservations will only be reinforced when you learn that the title is in no way metaphorical; the movie really is about a killer condom. 

Reality turns out to be much better than expectation, because that title monster—a ravenous rubber that looks like a Snapchat logo but with the teeth of a fluke—is an ideal metaphor for the movie itself. So much of Kondom des Grauens is about misleading appearances. For one thing, it’s distributed (though not made) by , with all the crudeness, grotesquerie, and DGAF attitude attached to that label, and yet it has a sweetness and enlightened viewpoint not often found in films produced by the studio. For another, it’s a movie about the seedy side of gay culture that is decidedly pro-gay, complete with a central romance and an unexpected level of empathy for a trans character. Most significantly, it’s a typical New York police procedural that’s distinguished by the fact that everyone in the film is speaking German.

It’s a measure of how much Western audiences have been trained to accept their stories in English, regardless of time or setting, that the language is the part that feels most bizarre about the film. And while turnabout is fair play, the lengths to which the filmmakers go to provide some verisimilitude only adds to the confusion of seeing this parade of New Yorkers delivering their lines in German. Ample Manhattan location shooting magnifies the many tropes that die Deutschen leave intact: the gruff black police chief who frequently threatens to take the hero’s badge, the tough-as-nails medical examiner with a blindness for social niceties, the parade of undesirables who wander through the fleabag flophouse (bearing the name “Hotel Quickie”). Killer Condom could pass for a low-budget Charles Bronson flick, if not for the Teutonic dialogue. 

Foremost among the required elements is our hero, the impeccably named Luigi Mackeroni. Like many a downtrodden movie cop, he spends his days wandering the streets of the Big Apple, monologuing in voiceover about what a dump it is and how he would maybe be better off in his native Sicily (again, this is all in German). He’s pretty Continue reading IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: KILLER CONDOM (1996)